Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the planet. Hidden beneath them is an entire world we know very little about, a world of undersea mountain ranges and ocean basins that play host to hundreds of thousands of underwater species. In the late 1990s, marine scientists expressed their concern with this lack of knowledge and understanding of the ocean’s inhabitants. They wanted to know about the diversity of life in the oceans, its distribution and its abundance. And over the next decade, as issues of climate change, fish stock depletion and pollution emerged in earnest, these questions proved to be increasingly important to answer.
In 2000, the Census of Marine Life was established with the goal of spending a decade collecting and analyzing as much information about ocean life as possible. In October 2010, after 540 expeditions led by 2,700 scientists from more than 80 countries, including 224 Canadians, the Census of Marine Life was officially wrapped up.
Comprised of websites, books, videos, maps, graphs and databases, the census is a robust collection of data on ocean life. The census has increased the estimate of marine species from approximately 230,000 to almost 250,000 and has amassed a stunning collection of images of some of new, old or rarely documented species. Many of these mysterious creatures live in some of the world’s most hostile environments where there is no light and no air, and where temperatures can either melt metal or freeze seawater.
Here, we present a selection of some of these fascinating creatures of the deep found in and around Canadian waters.